Any society is probably only as prosperous, developed and happy as its healthcare system, and central to any meaningful development planning, there must be a plan to improve access to quality, reliable, functional and affordable healthcare for citizens.
President Muhammadu Buhari has in several public statements, made it clear that a modern virile and people-centric healthcare system was fundamental to his vision for the socio-economic growth of our nation. However, the current reality is that the Nigerian health sector, (and we have heard quite a bit of that from the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire), still carries some critical challenges, which have resulted in sub-optimal outcomes, when compared especially with healthcare systems in more developed jurisdictions of the world.
This is due to a variety of factors, including fragmentation of health service delivery; insufficient healthcare financing; inadequate motivation and poor distribution of health workers; inadequate infrastructure and equipment; and relatively low private sector participation.
These factors have precipitated significant revenue loss due to growing medical tourism, and even the loss of our trained personnel which is a frightening phenomenon even now.
Government has the primary responsibility to address these issues and to put in place the structures and arrangements necessary to boost the efficiency of the healthcare ecosystem; improve healthcare delivery, stem the brain-drain of our health personnel and reduce the pressure we currently have on our foreign reserves on account of medical tourism
In furtherance of that objective, Mr. President approved the establishment of this Health Reform Committee to commence the development and implementation of a wide-ranging Health Sector Reform Programme for the country. We already have the terms of reference.
There have, of course, been a good number of attempts to reform the healthcare system in Nigeria, and many of us who are members-designate of this Committee are familiar with some of these reform efforts. This particular journey of reforming the Nigerian health sector, (and we have heard quite comprehensively from the Minister of Health), began with the commissioning of a Diagnostic Needs Assessment (DNA) of the sector.
Subsequently, the National Council on Privatization at its meeting of April 12, 2019, approved the appointment of consultants to carry out the assignment, which involved a review of previous reform efforts in the sector, as well as field visits to 55 Tertiary Health Institutions across the country and some selected sub-regional health institutions.
It is also important to mention that a series of stakeholder consultations were carried out with relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), health unions and key stakeholders in the sector. The report of that comprehensive effort has brought us to where we are today.
As mandated by Mr. President, the Health Sector Reform Committee is tasked with the crucial role of reviewing these reports and steering the direction of the needed reforms.
On account of the multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary participation required to execute a health reform mandate on the scale and the complexity that we have today, I am keen to ensure that the coordinating office for the reform effort which is domiciled in the Office of the Vice President will not just have the Ministry of Health (which is the important partner), but also some of the important technical resource persons provided by our partners and solid representation from the Committee.
The Coordinating Office will provide technical and administrative oversight of all activities of the reform and I intend to have further consultations with the Minister of Health as we bring this to fruition.
The next steps are that the Committee will be divided into thematic working groups to take on various aspects of the assignment. We have received the commitment of funding support to engage experts who will be assigned by the Secretariat to the various teams. In addition to members, we would also have sector experts for the thematic groups, professionals who would be engaged to support the thematic groups themselves.
I hope that at the next meeting of the Committee which will be convened shortly, the proposals for the thematic groupings and terms of reference will be presented for consideration.
Ahead of that, we would send these thematic groupings, the names, terms of reference, so if there are comments or questions, those can be raised and forwarded to the coordinating office, and if there are any additional ideas, those could also be forwarded. At the next meeting, there will be a quick run-through of the thematic groupings and what their tasks would be, and satisfy ourselves that we are on the right track.
Following that, each team will commence work and periodic reports will be presented as time goes on for our full Committee’s consideration.
Let me thank in advance, all members of the Committee for offering their time, resources for this very important national assignment. I hope that just as you committed yourselves to this, as time goes on, we would demand more and more of your time and your expertise and I hope that you’d be willing to provide more of that expertise. We thank you very much for your contributions so far and we hope to see more dedication and commitment as we go along.
In furtherance of this great effort, it is, therefore, my singular honour to inaugurate this Health Sector Reform Committee to the benefit of the people of Nigeria and to the glory of God.
I thank you all for your attention.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media & Publicity
Office of the Vice President
27th January 2022